At Your Service: Pssst… did you hear?
By Russ Dantu
By Russ Dantu
I recently delivered two half-days of virtual training for a municipality. I always talk to five to six employees of each department to get a feel for what is happening in their own areas as well as how they see the rest of the company. One issue that usually comes up is what I call the “culture killer” – gossip! Initially, everyone said what a great place it was to work at. Then I received a second email from one employee a few days later saying there was one issue she’d love me to address: gossip, and the affects it has on others.
Gossip is truly a culture killer. It can divide a team very quickly if it gains momentum. It can interfere with projects being done properly and correctly because it distracts from the end goal. It adds stress to your team and people can feel like they are walking around on egg shells. Basically, it breathes negativity and needs to be dealt with before it gets out of hand.
So how do we handle it? I am a true believer in weekly toolbox meetings as a way to deal with issues like gossip. This is one of the requirements in the COR certificate programs. COR addresses safety in the workplace and if you aren’t COR certified, I strongly suggest you look into it.
Back to the weekly toolbox meetings and why I like them. As part of your safety program, you need to hold a weekly meeting that is usually quite short – 10 to 15 minutes. The focus each meeting has is on a different area of safety so employees learn about them and it keeps safety top of mind. It can be as easy as operating a pallet jack, using a paper cutter, handling a knife, or any part of safety related to your specific business.
Years ago, soon after COR became a thing in Alberta, the rental company I was working for decided to apply for this certification. In addition to the safety tips we would go over weekly, I also spent an extra five minutes talking about customer service tips.
The toolbox meeting is where I would deal with a customer service issue (internal customer service) like gossip. It’s a lot easier when you have your entire team or department present to talk about difficult issues like this. For this specific topic, here is how I would deal with it.
Nip it in the bud as soon as someone brings it to your attention. This shows everyone you are serious about handling issues right away and you also take employee complaints seriously (as long as there is merit in what they are saying). Do this by bringing in the offender(s) to hear their side of the story. Sometimes there are deeper issues involved and uncovering them can help solve what the real issue is. Once you have a clear picture of what is happening, it’s time to use it in a toolbox meeting.
In the next toolbox meeting, give them a real-world example of how gossip hurt another company. By using storytelling, you keep them engaged and interested. By using a real-world scenario, you aren’t specifically picking on one or two people in your employ that appear to be the issue.
Ask for feedback and thoughts from your team on what they think the negative results of gossip are and how they would handle it. Participation is key here to help your team voice their concerns. Some may know it is happening but are afraid to speak up. By providing a safe environment, it makes it easier for them to do so. It also shows you are serious about them being part of the solution. The more we engage our employees, the better cohesion we have with our teams.
Monitor the progress after. Regularly check in with the person who brought it to your attention and also the perpetrators to make sure things don’t escalate again.
If it comes up again, be sure to use it in a future toolbox meeting as a refresher.
Toolbox meetings are great to create a stronger, safer team. Quick weekly meetings are also great to keep you and your team connected and will help you build a strong workplace culture.
If you’d like help in creating a better workplace culture or getting creative with building a strong customer-centric team, I’d love to be of service.
Take care of yourselves, your customers and your employees!
Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. Visit russdantu.com.